During the May primary, in addition to interviewing the major contenders for governor on “Triad Today,” I also invited candidates for lt. governor to appear individually. With a runoff looming, I asked Gurley and Forest to return, and appear together, and they agreed. Last week, the three of us taped a special half-hour program which will air this Saturday morning at 7:30am on abc45, and Sunday morning at 11 a.m. on MY48. It will be their first televised joint appearance. What follows are highlights from our discussion.
JL: There has been no mudslinging by either of you thus far. Was that by design? Was it something you agreed upon so as not to weaken the party’s chances this Fall?
DF: I subscribe to Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, “Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” I consider Tony a friend. We’re not running against each other, we’re running for the same office.
TG: We agree on a lot of issues, and I have no intention whatsoever of bringing up any negative issue.
JL: Speaking of mudslinging, a GOP PAC is still airing a TV spot that blames Walter Dalton for everything that happened during Bev Perdue’s administration. As someone who aspires to be the state’s second-in-command, is it fair to blame the lt. governor for what the governor does?
DF: There’s always going to be some guilt by association. If you’re the lt. governor, and the governor is making negative decisions for the state, then certainly those are going to reflect on the lt. governor as well.
TG: In this case I think it is fair because I’ve found many times where the lt. governor is claiming credit for what he considers good things that occurred, which he really didn’t have that much to do with. So when you take credit for things you didn’t do, you’re going to take the blame for some of the bad things that possibly you didn’t participate in as well.
JL: So if you find yourself serving alongside a governor with whom you disagree, would you voice your opposition publicly?
TG: If it was something I feel strongly about, such as the Lottery, yes. The current lt. governor actually had a vote to break the tie on that issue. Had I been lt. governor then, i would have stood against the governor on that.
DF: You need to be somewhat of a surrogate for the governor and to be a consensus builder. But if there’s an issue which I’m ideologically opposed to, then I will stand firm on my belief.
JL: How do you stand on offering taxpayer-funded incentives to prospective industry?
DF: It’s not fair for the government to pick winners and losers in any market segment. If you are a business owner, and you’ve been here in North Carolina for 20 years, it’s not fair for a competitor to come into your market and receive incentives for doing business here.
TG: And, you’re using existing businesses who are paying their taxes, to provide the money to support these new industries. I’m also opposed to special exemptions for new industry. It needs to be a level playing field for everybody.
JL: Both of you have criticized our level of taxation in NC. How do you propose to fix the problem?
DF: First you have to look at who’s getting punished the most, and that’s small businesses who are creating most of our jobs. I believe we need to create a small-business tax bracket.
TG: Producers are the ones paying the taxes to support non-producers. Our gas tax is higher than that of Virginia and South Carolina combined, and that money doesn’t go for transportation improvements. It goes to help balance the general fund, so we need to rework our entire tax structure.
Gurley and Forest covered a lot of ground during the 30-minute program, including comments on everything from gay marriage to healthcare reform. And though I disagree with some of their beliefs and positions, I respect them for being willing to participate in a substantive discussion of issues, and that says a lot about their character. Had Mike Easley and Bev Perdue showed us more of their true character while running for lt. governor, voters might have kept them from advancing their political careers any further, and abusing their powers along the way. That’s why I like to think of programs like “Triad Today” as “preventive politics.”
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).